“Stalag Luft 111 was built to be escape-proof …… In between its two 2.5 metre-high barbed-wire fences lay a deadly no-man’s land, a 1,5 metre-wide gap called Lion’s Walk, which was overlooked by a string of sentry towers, manned by well-armed guards with orders to shoot. The entire perimeter was fi tted with rotating fl oodlights.” This description from which the famed “great escape” took place during the second World War gives some idea of the hazards facing the POWs, who dared to dream of freedom. Forget the fi lm which bears only some elements of the truth, and concentrate on this remarkably researched story of one of the escapees, a young Australian, John Williams. His niece, Louise, has painstakingly followed his life from surfi ng in Manly, with his German born friend, Hans, to his execution “while trying to escape” by the ruthless Gestapo. The immediacy of the writing style brings it home as nothing else could, and it grips the reader from start to fi nish. An advertisement in a Sydney paper, offering short-term commissions in the R.A.F. caught John Williams attention, and he was one of only four applications accepted for training in Britain. It was a fateful decision for this eighteenyear old, though he could hardly have foreseen his time as a fl ight instructor, a pilot in the North African campaign, and prisoner of war incarcerated in what was thought to be an impregnable prison camp. It was happenstance that Rusty Kierath, a friend from schooldays at Shore, also was imprisoned in Stalag 111. They both participated fully in the construction of the tunnel, Harry, after Tom and Dick had been discovered by the German ‘ferrets’, emerging from the trolley through the perilous exit as numbers 31 and 32. If this exciting read is not enough for you, have a look at SEA DEVILS by Mark Felton (published by Icon for $27.99) and thrill to the exploits of young British, Australian and New Zealand submariners as they wage a top-secret underwater war against the Japanese. There are possibly many more stories to be told about this dangerous era, but, at the moment, these are two of the very best.
A TRUE STORY OF THE GREAT ESCAPE
by LOUISE WILLIAMS
PUBLISHED by ALLEN & UNWIN
for a recommended $29.99